New track and field facilities at Rancho and Russell Middle Schools, as well as Phase 2 of the Mattos Elementary School Construction, are among more than a dozen Summer 2021 bond projects underway at multiple Milpitas Unified School District sites.
“Our bond program is doing well financially. We have made prudent decisions to create savings so that we are able to do more projects,” said Assistant Superintendent Wendy Zhang of Business Services. “I can assure that all of our bond funds are designated and expended only on District projects.”
Measure AA is the $284 million bond measure approved by local voters in November 2018.
While construction work has begun on the Rancho track with completion scheduled for late summer, the modernization of the Russell fields is expected to be finished by Fall 2021.
Meanwhile, over at Mattos, the summer expansion includes three new classroom buildings and a multipurpose building, with a completion date of Spring 2022. Interim portable classrooms have been set in place for the start of the 2021-22 school year. Additionally, the road widening will be completed by the end of August.
A ribbon cutting is planned prior to the start of school at the modernized Randall World Languages School, where bond dollars were allocated for a new, state-of-the-art multi-purpose building with a warming kitchen, a new administration building, a new modular kinder classroom, the relocation of several portable classrooms, a new dropoff/pickup loop, and associated site work.
Other summer projects include:
Additionally, projects in the planning stages include:
With 439 students participating in the first session and 273 in the second session, Milpitas Unified School District’s Summer School Credit Recovery Program is in full swing.
Summer School Principal Jonathan Ho is heading up the 2021 summer program, which staffs 19 teachers and four counselors (Jonathan Payne, Jennifer Evarkiou, Adrian Hernandez and Valerie Lamb), as well as support from the Learning & Development and Tech Services teams.
“I am blessed with an amazing team,” said Ho, a mathematics teacher at Milpitas High School who recently earned his administrative credential. “We are housed here at Cal Hills, and all of our summer school staff are already MUSD employees so they are familiar with what we’re all about here and our Culture of We.”
Summer School has adopted a Hybrid format, with students participating either online or in-person using a computer-based platform called Odysseyware to recover course credits and get back on track toward graduation. Each student takes an initial assessment and, based on those results, the program assigns individualized classwork with a credentialed teacher supporting them along the way.
“It’s nice that these kids get this opportunity to complete the work they weren’t able to do during the school year and move onto the next level,” said Ivy Nguyen, a MHS mathematics teacher who is teaching Math 3 over the summer for 67 students.
A Cal Hills/Milpitas HS Summer School Graduation Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, August 4 at 5 p.m. for those senior students who complete their graduation requirements this summer.
Summer School has also provided community service hours for a trio of Student TA’s who have helped out in various capacities with assisting teachers, office staff, custodians, Student Nutrition and Tech Services. Community service is needed to meet MUSD high school graduation requirements.
“It’s been great to have a couple of kids helping out while earning those community service hours,” said Ho, who was particularly appreciative to MUSD leaders for allowing him to gain valuable experience as an administrator this summer.
He added: “As a teacher, my influence is confined to my classroom. As an administrator, I have the opportunity to really move things forward for an entire school or program, and help spread best practices.”
With administrator Luis Lopez shifting back to middle school leadership to partner with Principal Casey McMurray at Rancho Milpitas Middle School, Parwinder Johal was named new principal at Spangler Elementary School, after serving as MUSD’s Coordinator of Literacy/Intervention/EL for the last five years.
Johal’s educational path with 25 years in MUSD includes teaching positions at Spangler and Rose Elementary Schools before serving as assistant principal at Joseph Weller Elementary School and eventually moving to the district office.
“My greatest joy has been partnering with staff to create affirming and inclusive learning environments for students to learn and families to be engaged in,” said Johal. “Our students’ tapestry of languages, cultures, and experiences are assets that I deeply value and build upon to create culturally responsive and equitable learning pathways for all our learners.”
Julianna Flores, who has performed in various teacher leadership roles over her career, makes up the other half of the Spangler admin team as assistant principal. Flores joins MUSD after serving as the First and Second Grade Inclusion Teacher for Los Arboles Literacy and Technology Academy in San Jose.
Flores said she “strives to lead with equity, inclusivity, and collaboration with all stakeholders (and) believes in meeting students where they are, listening to student voices, and working with school personnel to enhance the learning experiences and learning environment for students.”
Priti Johari was selected as MUSD’s Executive Director, Learning & Innovation, a new position that will co-lead the L&D department along with recently promoted Executive Director of Inclusive Services for All, Mary Jude Doerpinghaus. Johari, a Bay Area native, comes to Milpitas via Massachusetts, where she served in roles at multiple districts as Chief Academic Officer, Assistant Superintendent, Principal, and Teacher spanning 15+ years in public education.
Johari said she is “passionate about cultivating systems that see, nurture, and affirm the whole child. This means building integrated systems that promote the development of mastery, identity, and creativity across grade levels and subjects in a trauma informed environment.”
Michele Sherer, who has two decades of educational experience as a special educator, mentor, principal, and credential instructor, was chosen as the new assistant principal at Rose Elementary School, where she joins seasoned principal Nanci Pass. Sherer comes to Milpitas after serving as Educator Coach and Preparation Specialist with the Santa Clara County Office of Education-Education Preparation for Inclusive Classrooms (EPIC).
“It is a great honor to have the opportunity to work with a community that values diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Sherer said. “My passion and purpose: equitable access/achievement for all students, retention of educators, and fostering positive school climates.”
The MUSD Board of Education approved five more hires to the leadership team for the 2021-22 school year, including three promotions from within the MUSD family, at the June 22 meeting.
Joining our MUSD Team in leadership positions for the 2021-22 school year are:
1) Aven Magana was named to the new position of Coordinator I, Virtual Pathways K-12, after serving as the district's COVID-19 Designee and an assistant principal with Milpitas Adult Ed;
2) Mary Jude Doerpinghaus was selected to the new position of Executive Director of Inclusive Services for All Learners, after serving as MUSD's Director of Student Services and Special Education this past school year;
3) Karisa Scott was chosen to the new position of Middle College High School Principal, after working as a Cal Hills HS assistant principal and other admin positions within MUSD;
4) Jesus Chagolla joins the MUSD Team as the next Supervisor, Maintenance, Operations and Transportation (MOT), Custodial, after 21 years of custodial experience in various capacities; and
5) Sarah Davis comes to MUSD as the next Program Manager, Inclusion, after working in a myriad of roles in the special education realm, most recently as special education teacher/education specialist with Cupertino USD.
Magana, Doerpinghaus and Scott's current positions will not be filled and the changes are part of restructuring Learning and Development to better serve students and staff as we move forward beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Milpitas Unified School District Board of Education welcomed five new hires to the #MUSDfamily, after unanimously approving recommendations for a supervisor, co-principal, and three assistant principals at the June 8 meeting. Joining our MUSD Team in leadership positions for the 2021-22 school year are:
1) MOT Transportation Supervisor Jared Acosta, who is an MUSD and Mission College alumnus with a wealth of experience in grounds/bus, custodial arts, and more;
2) Randall Elementary Co-Principal Claudia Cadenas, who brings 30 years as a bilingual teacher, including 13 years of multilingual instruction in Chile, to our World Languages Academy;
3) Burnett Elementary Assistant Principal Brandi McMillian, who is an MUSD alumna and Milpitas resident with 15 years in the district as a teacher at both Randall and Burnett;
4) Pomeroy Elementary Assistant Principal Anastasia Hrissafinas, who comes to Milpitas via New Jersey where she was a teaching lead for 5 years and a Teacher of the Year; and
5) Zanker Elementary Assistant Principal Hetal Patel, who has 15 years of teaching and admin experience at multiple grade levels, including the last three as AP at WillowGlen HS.
Providing community access to the Aquatics Center at Milpitas High School was secured with a new one-year lease agreement with Milpitas Aquatic Club. The Board of Education unanimously approved the pact at the May 25 meeting.
With Business Services Manager Kelly Ng leading the district's efforts, Milpitas Aquatic Club agreed to provide community access to the pool during the summer, as well as lifeguards during athletic practices, home games, and swim PE classes. Summer recreational swim is scheduled for Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
"It's our goal to help grow and improve aquatics in the Milpitas area by offering a fun, safe and competitive program in swimming, diving, and water polo," said Kyler Van Swol, head coach of Milpitas Aquatic Club.
The district solicited community input through a multilingual survey, which garnered nearly 600 responses. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they would use the pool for a nominal fee.
The new one-year lease agreement will run from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. Review the full board presentation here.
When Milpitas High School senior Andrea Alatorre signed up for the Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, better known as NJROTC, she was quiet and uncertain like many incoming freshmen.
Four years later, the 18-year-old cadet is full of self-confidence, leadership skills, and set to attend De Anza College as a biology major in the fall. “I learned how to use my voice and just communicate better,” Andrea shared. “It actually helped me come out of my shell.”
Junior Mehtab Kang, 16, now in his third year of the NJROTC, was shy and nervous when he first started the elective class at MHS. Kang, who comes from a military family and is a varsity basketball player, plans to parlay the leadership and organizational skills he’s developed into a software and computer science pathway at a Naval Academy.
“I’ve created bonds with people I would never have expected to meet,” said Mehtab. “The biggest thing is my growth as a leader, my organizational and management skills, and team building skills.”
Lieutenant Margie Jackson, who served 34 years in the United States Coast Guard before retiring, is in her fourth year as the Senior Naval Science Instructor for the four-year program at Milpitas HS. This year, she has 67 freshmen to seniors who come five days a week, and earn geography and life management graduation credits.
The NJROTC program is designed to teach high school students the value of citizenship, leadership, service to the community, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment, while instilling in them self-esteem, teamwork, and self discipline.
“The NJROTC core values are honor, courage and commitment. Everything we do in the program relates back to these goals,” Lt. Jackson explained. “It’s really about character development, being committed and honorable, and having integrity and courage in everything you do.”
The Naval Science 1 through 4 course material starts with an introduction to what the Navy is and what its core values are while aiming to improve study habits. Then, it advances to the study of oceanography and weather, along with cultural awareness and history. Each cadet must study from a reference manual and be able to recite a general order when asked.
“If they understand the history of other cultures, then they will have respect for them,” added Lt. Jackson, whose cadets are required to wear their uniforms only once per week. Students can earn up to 23 ribbons for their uniforms, including a community service ribbon that counts for the graduation requirement.
Thursday is drill day where they work on their techniques. Other activities include reading letters sent to the class from military veterans. Lt. Jackson also installed a buddy system where upperclassmen work with incoming freshmen inside and outside of the classroom, serving as a mentor.
Additionally, NJROTC has after-school programs such as twirling rifles with the school’s color guard and participating in competitions against other NJROTC programs. Another high honor for cadets is the raising of the American flag each morning at school.
“I was planning to join the military so I hope to get the skills from this that will be useful for my future,” said freshman Franchesca Santiago. “So far, I’ve learned a lot, especially time management and leadership.”
As the Regional Director and Special Advisor for US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and previously a Legislative Advisor to two members of the NYS Assembly, Hofflich—who now acts as the Senator’s representative for eight counties and 3 million people in the Lower Hudson Valley—has written 28 New York State bills that have been signed into law, including this Walking While Trans.
“I am her liaison to the community… I help shape policy in the U.S. Senate,” said the 28-year-old policymaker who has lived in New York since 1990 and is happily married with five wonderful kids. ”Life is good. It's challenging but good.”
Prior to her legislative accolades, Hofflich’s career path took her through television news production, social justice activism and advocacy.
Hofflich fondly remembers her years at Milpitas High School. “I loved my time at MHS,” she said, vividly recalling her History teacher Henry Robinson and others who impacted her to this day.
“He was a social activist even in the classroom. He taught us how to be advocates for social justice. He’s fantastic,” said Hofflich of the retired educator and current MPD Police-MUSD School Liaison. “The faculty and staff at Milpitas HS were really accepting, very nurturing. ..I never felt that I couldn’t do something after talking to one of my teachers.”
Even after high school, Hofflich kept in touch with many of her teachers and sought mentoring from them—something she wanted to share with younger generations of Milpitas students who are navigating those challenging adolescent years.
“Teachers are your allies and mentors. ...It’s OK to ask for help from your teachers,” Hofflich said. “I felt such support from my teachers.”
Hofflich, whose office is always accepting internship applications for college-aged students interested in public policy, was recently named chair of an Asian American Pacific Islander Democratic Committee in Westchester, New York, formed in response to a rise in AAPI hate incidents.
Burnett teaching tandem provides unique simultaneous in-person, distance learning experience to students
For Burnett Elementary School sixth grade students, the math lessons come fast and furious from the teaching tandem of seasoned educators Kristian Lecours and Jennifer Harlow—whose classroom compatibility is contagiously engaging.
The duo immediately started team teaching at the very beginning of MUSD EducatEveryWhere in March 2020, and has not looked back. “Honestly, the benefits of team teaching are exponential to both students and teachers,” said Lecours, who is in his sixth year at Burnett. “The kids are held more accountable and engaged since we have two sets of eyes watching them.”
Lecours has a handful of in-person students in his classroom, the number depends on the day, while the rest of the class is remotely signed on through Zoom. Harlow is also online, monitoring the chat, providing helpful tips and words of encouragement while making sure students are staying on task. A Jamboard allows the in-person and online students to work simultaneously on the same questions.
“Sharing the workload has been amazing,” said Harlow, now in her 16th year at Burnett. The two share 67 sixth-grade students. “We have different strengths and bounce ideas off each other when it comes to instruction.”
Their chemistry is undeniable.
For math, Lecours takes the instructional lead. On this particular day, he projects the warm-up questions on the Jamboard and then rotates between calling on students logged on and in-person to work through problems step by step.
“What do you have to do here?” he asks an in-person student who responds, “divide both sides by 3.2.” Then, he turns to an online student to share, “what’s the shortcut?” Lecours, wearing a mask and shield at the front of the class, works at a steady pace to keep all the students engaged at once.
The daily school schedule consists of physical education, enrichment, reading, recess, math, lunch and social studies in the afternoon. In addition, students who need extra support stay on while others participate in small reading groups. They are reading the novel, “I Am Malala,” and the discussion has been robust. Harlow takes the lead in Language Arts while math is Lecours’ forte.
“In a weird way, the kids are more engaged, sharing more with better dialogue this way,” Lecours said. “We have kids in class who are Islamic, and they are way more comfortable sharing their beliefs and the students are super respectful.”
Each month, it is packet-pickup time for sixth-grade families. Again, Lecours and Harlow work in tandem, distributing work packets for math and science, items ordered by students from the Bulldog Boutique, and even some extra goodies for students. Parents, most with their children, drive through the parking lot to pick up the items as the Burnett teaching tandem greets them all with the same shared enthusiasm.
Rancho Milpitas Middle School received word this month from the California Department of Education that it was selected as a 2021 California Distinguished School.
The 2021 California Distinguished Schools Program recognizes California schools that have made exceptional gains in implementing the academic content and performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education for all students.
“This accomplishment is a result of our collective and collaborative professional efforts to support our students over the last several years,” said Rancho Principal Casey McMurray. “This is definitely a highlight in an otherwise very challenging school year.”
Rancho, which follows 2020 recipients Rose and Curtner Elementary Schools, qualified for this prestigious honor under Category 2 of the California Distinguished Schools Program for Exceptional Student Performance in English Language Arts and Mathematics as well as Suspension Rate and Chronic Absentee Indicators.
“We will celebrate this recognition and share it with our community,” McMurray said. “Kudos to each of our team members for the work they have done and continue to do despite the difficulties.”
View the CDE’s news release announcing this year’s Distinguished Schools at https://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr21/yr21rel20.asp